China: Buying America

Published on: 13:41PM Jul 01, 2014

The world's largest population has mouths to feed, that's no secret and U.S. agriculture trade with China is a big business, $26 billion to be precise. However, feeding China's cattle with American alfalfa is something we didn't know a lot about. On a ranch three hours east of Salt Lake City green alfalfa fields can be seen for miles. Those 22,000-acres are owned by a pair of Chinese entrepreneurs who purchased the land 3 years ago for $10 million. Now, approximately "22,000 tons of super-compacted" alfalfa is sent to China and fed to the country's growing dairy herd. This is a continuing trend that has seen China invest more in foreign agriculture. But guess who is still #1? USA! USA! USA!

The Food Chain

Cattle prices have been great the past few months at the producer level, but when it comes to beef prices for consumers it's a different story. In-N-Out Burger has raised menu prices between 10 to 15 cents for their Double-Double. Even Chipotle Mexican Grill who has resorted to importing Australian beef to hopefully increase profit margins is also raising prices. The burrito giant now sells a steak burrito for $7.40, that's approximately a 5% increase.

U.S. consumers are feeling the pinch on their wallets everywhere with prices up 0.4% in May. Besides beef, prices have also jumped up for fruit, coffee, clothing, prescription drugs, cars, gasoline and airline tickets.

Prince of Enemas

The future King of England hates genetically modified crops. During former Prime Minister Tony Blair's administration, Prince Charles tried to have GM crops outlawed.

AgWeb blogger Chris Bennett points out that the heir to the throne would love to see a world that uses old-school farming and breeding methods. Back in 2008, Prince Charles accused agriculture corporations of conducting a gigantic experiment with nature and humanity that had gone wrong. He's even said GM crops are responsible for Indian farmer suicides. "But then again, this is the same Charles that recommended coffee enemas as a cancer remedy," Bennett writes.

Unprecedented Prices

The fed cattle and beef markets are seeing unprecedented prices, especially for this time in the year.

Andrew P. Griffith, an assistant professor in ag economics at the University of Tennessee, shares in his weekly "Market Highlights" report that fed cattle traded $4 higher on a live basis and that boxed beef was up $5.26 from the previous Friday. "Beef prices generally struggle during the heat of the summer, but there is obviously enough support to push prices to all-time highs," Griffith says.